Appointed as a young leader who could mend a campus torn by 1960s student activism, President Derek C. Bok has presided over two decades marked by massive financial growth, curriculum reform, and its own fair share of internal controversies.
In 20 years, Bok has dramatically increased Harvard's endowment--which has tripled in just the last ten years and stands now at more than $5 billion.
He directed a seven-year fundraising campaign for the Faculty Arts and Sciences (FAS) and drew international attention to Harvard as he directed its 350th anniversary gala in 1986. And he will leave the University as it gears up for the largest fund drive ever for an institution of higher education--more than $2 billion.
In the meantime, Bok created the Kennedy School of Government, building one of the nation's first schools dedicated to educating future government leaders and advisers. And it was during Bok's tenure that Harvard instituted its Core Curriculum, which has expanded its scope since its inception 11 years ago.
But Bok's abilities as a financial leader have also made him the subject of frequent student scrutiny. His reluctance to subordinate the University's financial well-being to moral debates--specifically his opposition to selling Harvard's South African-related investments--have made Bok the focus of intense protests from students and some alumni.
And while Bok has put great stock in his new management style--one which he says allows more careful and deliberate decision-making--some say it has often subordinated the issues to the process. Many faculty watchers have said that Bok's networks of ad-hoc committees have led to slow progress on junior faculty promotions and reform within departments, while producing unpopular decisions on several tenure decisions both in FAS and Harvard Law School.
When Nathan M. Pusey '28 handed the presidency to Bok, Pusey left a campus torn by controversy over the Vietnam War, ties to the military and race relations. Upon taking office, one of Bok's first acts was to make the then-experimental Afro-American Studies program a formal Faculty department.
But Bok also looked to change the top-heavy administrative structures that many believed had plagued Pusey's administration. Bok decentralized Harvard's management, creating four vice-presidencies, an in-house legal staff, an office of government and community affairs and myriad assistant deans and other mid-level bureaucratic positions.
Athough Bok has said he does not enjoy fundraising, he has made it one of his top priorities as president, and has remained actively involved in financial matters throughout his tenure. The University's endowment remains the largest of any institution of higher education in the world, and Bok is credited with making the $350 million fund drive in 1986--which was originally slated for only $250 million--a success.
"I am a great admirer of President Bok. He is very able, very decent and absolutely devoted to Harvard," said Peter L. Malkin '55, a Harvard overseer who is heading alumni fundraising in New York.
One institution that enjoyed particular financial success was the Kennedy School of Government. With new facilities built under Bok's administration, the Kennedy School has in recent years sent advisers to aid national and local government leaders, including every president since Jimmy Carter.
"Inspired by his vision and encouragement, the John F. Kennedy School of Government is one his princial legacies to Harvard," said Robert G. Putnam, dean of the Kennedy School.
Yet it was precisely this commitment to financial interests that attracted student protests throughout his tenure. Bok--who had a reputation as a conciliator from his tenure as dean of the Law School--first confrontedstudent activism in 1972. At that time, studentsheld a "mill-in" at University Hall to urgedivestment from 70,000 shares in Gulf Oil, whichhad business and government ties to Angola.
Bok, in a tone that was to become familiar inthe coming years, announced two months later thatHarvard would not divest, asserting that theUniversity should not use its finances to makepolitical statements. Upon that announcement,Black students occupied Massachusetts Hall for aweek, forcing students and administrators there torelocate temporarily.